Three of the pitchers most responsible for the Ventura County Pirates’ 2019 run to the Sunset Baseball League Finals should not have even been in the SBL this year.
Curren Larson, Miguel Garcia, and Eric Crouse were all referred to the Pirates after being undervalued by the OC Riptide of the California Collegiate League. The pitchers were referred to Vranau because the Riptide believed they didn’t meet CCL standards.
“I beg to differ, with the way those guys have pitched this summer,” general manager George Vranau said.
Vranau’s opinion is well-supported. Larson and Garcia have each pitched against the Riptide this year, combining for a 1.29 ERA in seven innings pitched. Ventura County is 2-0 against Orange County this season.
Larson, Garcia, and Crouse’s numbers against the CCL as a whole also prove the Riptide’s decision was ill-advised. Against the prestigious league the three are 1-0 with a microscopic 0.82 ERA in 11 innings pitched over three separate games.
The Pirates are 4-1 against the CCL this year. Their only loss came in a game in which none of the three pitchers appeared.
Larson’s appearance against the CCL was the longest. He dominated the Riptide for five innings on July 12. He leads the Pirates in wins and his 1.00 ERA is the best on staff.
“I don’t think [the Riptide] realized what they gave up when they let him come to us.,” Vranau said.
The Riptide gave up on Garcia, too, when they failed to establish communication with him after summer 2018, when Garcia played for their affiliate, the OC Surf. He was transitioning grips on his fastball when Vranau recruited him. He believes the support he received from the Pirates’ coaching to continue that transition contributed to his improvement.
“I was able to find a feel for my fastball two-seam and four-seam grip and located them out and in,” Garcia said.
Crouse also made adjustments to pitches after leaving the Riptide.
“I was developing a cutter that I’ve been using this summer that has turned into a really good pitch,” Crouse said.
Crouse’s heavy cutter gets on hitters quickly, disrupting their timing. He mixed it with his secondary pitches to earn the win against the Conejo Oaks of the CCL July 5.
Larson, Garcia, and Crouse have drowned the CCL with their talent since being released from the Riptide. Their repertoire has formed a wave of momentum which the Pirates hope to ride to an SBL Championship.
The Pirates face the Solana Beach Redbirds in Game 1 of the SBL Finals 7 p.m. Saturday at Cal State Fullerton.